VANCOUVER, BC – The future is now.
Canada’s hopes of returning to the FIFA U-20 World Cup after an eight-year absence come to the forefront this month as they compete in the 2015 U-20 CONCACAF Championship – a tournament that serves as the qualifiers for this year’s U-20 World Cup.
Here’s everything you need to know about the competition, which begins today.
WHAT IS IT?
The U-20 CONCACAF Championship is a 12-team tournament, featuring teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean, that determines the CONCACAF region’s four entrants into the FIFA U-20 World Cup. The 2015 U-20 World Cup is set to begin on May 30 in New Zealand.
Under the current format of the competition, there are two groups of six with each team playing its group opponents once in the round robin – for a total of five matches.
Both group winners advance to the tournament final and automatically qualify for the U-20 World Cup. The second and third placed teams are then reseeded amongst each other before playing in a playoff to determine the final two World Cup berths.
Canada has been drawn into Group B, which is based in Montego Bay, Jamaica, alongside Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, and Haiti.
See Canada’s schedule below.
Saturday, January 10: vs. Haiti at 5 p.m. PT
Monday, January 12: vs. Mexico at 12 p.m. PT
Thursday, January 15: vs. El Salvador at 12 p.m. PT
Monday, January 19: vs. Cuba at 12 p.m. PT
Thursday, January 22: vs. Honduras at 2:30 p.m. PT
The tournament final and playoff games will take place on January 25.
Currently, there are no live broadcast options available in Canada. For viewers outside Canada, all US matches and other selected contests will air on Fox Sports 2, and all tournament games will be streamed live via FoxSports2Go. Stay tuned to whitecapsfc.com for updates throughout the competition.
Canada’s roster features nine Whitecaps FC Residency products, including first-team quartet Sam Adekugbe, Marco Bustos, Marco Carducci, and Kianz Froese, who are each expected to play major roles.
Also included on the roster are Residency fullback/midfielder Jordan Haynes and Residency graduates Jackson Farmer (centre back), Chris Serban (fullback) and Nolan Wirth (goalkeeper).
Click here to see the full roster.
MAKING IT OFFICIAL
Adekugbe, who was born in England before moving to Calgary at the age of nine, recently received his Canadian citizenship – meaning he is now eligible to represent the Red and White in official competitions.
“It’s great to get him all through and ready to play for us with his passport coming in late,” said Canada U-20 head coach Rob Gale. “Sam is a terrific footballer. Back in November, he was flying and getting first-team minutes and then he went over to England and did well in a training stint with Liverpool. Sam has the potential to be a very big player for the team.”
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH:
- Cyle Larin (striker): Projected top pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.
- Michael Petrasso (midfielder): The 2014 Canadian U-20 Player of the Year and a member of English Premier League side Queens Park Rangers FC.
- Hanson Boakai (midfielder): Promising youngster currently playing for FC Edmonton.
- Luca Gasparotto (defender): Team captain – currently on loan at Airdrieonians FC from Rangers FC.
On the mood of the team:
“The boys are raring to go. It’s been a good preparation camp. It’s nice to have the full squad finalized and settled. It’s business time. We’re ready.”
On potentially rotating the squad:
“One of the things we’ve always stressed with this group is that it’s going to be our strength of depth that gets us through. We’ve been preparing that way all the way along, looking ahead on game-by-game selections … knowing that players aren’t going to be able to last that many games physically and mentally. We’re preparing scenarios three games in advance of what might be best suited for the opposition as well as making sure we’re fresh for every game.”
On Chris Serban:
“It was an interesting one because we monitored Chris last year with Whitecaps FC. And we thought if there’s one area where we needed improvement it was in the fullback position, so we extended the opportunity to him and threw him in the deep end really with the European tour. He went in against England late but then played against Russia and the USA and did very, very well for us.”
On expected contributions from Marco Bustos and Kianz Froese:
“Hopefully big ones. They’re looking good form right now. Both have good qualities that put them close to the first team in Vancouver. They’ve both signed professional contracts now. I think both players, with the attacking qualities they have, could have big tournaments for us.”